Annually, the skincare industry revenues over 21 billion dollars a year in the United States and over 155 billion dollars worldwide. With growing skincare trends and opportunities, it’s easy to see how esthetics is becoming a popular career choice.
An esthetician is a beauty professional that specializes in skincare. They offer treatments and services such as facials, exfoliation, body hair removal and more. Furthermore, the esthetics industry uses advanced techniques, technology and products that require hundreds of hours of schooling and state licensure to practice.
So, how much does it cost to become an esthetician? In short, there’s no easy answer as the price varies widely based on location, state requirements, the school you attend and the level of licensure you’d like to achieve.
Table of Contents:
- How to become an esthetician (and what it costs)
- How long does it take to become an esthetician?
- How much do estheticians make?
- How to pay for esthetician school.
How to become an esthetician (and what it costs)
Much like any career that requires a professional state license, a career in esthetics requires extensive schooling, practical training, testing and licensing. To become an esthetician, you must complete the following steps:
- Attend esthetician school.
- Complete state exams.
- Apply for an esthetician license.
Let’s break down each of these steps.
Step 1: Attend esthetician school
Education is the first step to becoming an esthetician. You can choose to attend a program from a community college or a private esthetics program. The community college route is often more affordable, but these programs are less prevalent across the United States. Private esthetics programs are more accessible, with some cities offering more than one school.
What is an esthetician school?
Each state has its own training hours and licensing requirements, but many schools across the country teach similar principles.
During your time in esthetician school, you’ll learn about skin care ingredients and products, the skin’s anatomy, basic chemistry, business practices and safety and health regulations. You’ll also learn the skills to provide treatments and services like facials, face and neck massages, body hair removal and makeup application.
As with any career, hands-on training is a must-have. While you’re in esthetics school, you can expect to provide services to clients under the supervision of your program instructor. In these programs, you will learn through lectures, coursework and hands-on application.
How much does it cost to become an esthetician?
Since each state regulates esthetics requirements differently, you may notice that school tuition varies widely. Going to school in a state that requires a longer program will often cost more. College Tuition Compare estimates that the average cost for esthetician school is $9,701, while master esthetician programs cost $13,238 on average.
It’s important to note that tuition isn’t the only cost associated with these programs. Other costs may include supply kits (including manuals, tools and products) and a school uniform or scrubs. You will likely purchase these items from the school for an additional cost that may range between $500 to $1,000.
Average esthetician school cost: $9,701
Step 2: Complete state exams
Most states require that esthetician school graduates pass state board exams to prove their knowledge of esthetics, health and safety procedures before receiving a license.
Some states have a theory exam — otherwise known as a written exam — and a practical exam. There are a few states that will only require one of these exams and a small handful of states that do not require a state board test. You may also note that many state exams offer the same written exam to estheticians as they do to cosmetologists.
The written exam often includes questions about safety, health, skin conditions, anatomy, basic chemistry and common services you will provide. These topics are discussed at length during esthetician school, but it is in your best interest to look at your state’s licensed professionals’ website for further information on what you can expect from the exam.
As for the practical exam, you will receive tasks to complete in a set time as if you were providing a treatment. While this test will differ in each state, you may anticipate showing off your skills in the following areas:
- Workspace and client preparation
- Facial service
- Face or body hair removal
- Facial makeup
- Sterilization procedures
- Blood exposure protocol
Since each state administers its own test, costs will vary. Many states require that you register and pay for the test ahead of time, and you’ll take the test in a designated testing center. The best place to search for testing information is your state’s professional licenses website for cosmetologists and barbers.
Please note that some states may require login information or preregistration before revealing their pricing information. Another great way to find this information is by networking with licensed estheticians in your state.
Disclaimer: Exam fees last updated in May 2023.
Average esthetician exam costs: $95 per exam
Step 3: Obtain your esthetician license
The last step to becoming an esthetician is applying for and obtaining your license to practice. You must show proof that you met all of the following prerequisites when you apply for licensure:
- Complete an accredited esthetics program.
- Complete required practice hours.
- Pass required state exams.
Once you have proof of the above requirements, you can apply for your state license online or through the mail. Check your state’s cosmetology board website to ensure you have all the correct forms and information before applying.
All states will charge a licensing fee and some may also require an application or processing fee. Licensing and associated fees vary by state — find this information on the state’s website when you fill out the application.
Average licensing costs for estheticians: $50
How long does it take to become an esthetician?
Few states only require 300 hours of training, whereas others may require over 1,000 hours. If you were to calculate the average, esthetics school takes around 650 hours (about six to nine months if attending school full-time).
Some states may also have a tiered system. For example, Utah has two levels of certification: Basic, which takes 600 hours (about six months), or Master, which takes 1,200 hours (about one year). These additional hours and further education allow estheticians to offer advanced treatments such as chemical exfoliation, laser treatments and injection assistance.
To most accurately determine how long it will take to become an esthetician in your state, check your state’s professional licensing division website or inquire at an esthetics school near you.
How much do estheticians make?
Now that you know how much it costs to become an esthetician, your next question may be how much you could make in this career. According to Salary.com, licensed estheticians in the United States make an average base salary of $46,233.
Here are the top-earning states for estheticians:
- Alaska: $51,816
- California: $51,631
- District of Columbia: $51,414
- New Jersey: $51,104
- Massachusetts: $50,290
As with any career, the salary depends entirely on the type of place you work, the services you offer, geography and other important factors. For example, if you work in one of the top-earning states, work at a high-end spa and offer luxurious treatments, you may earn more than the average esthetician.
How to pay for esthetician school.
Many esthetician schools offer payment options such as paying in full and payment plans. Esthetics schools also accept scholarships and financial aid, such as the Pell Grant. If you find a loan is necessary, you can take out a federal student loan (if eligible) or a private student loan.
Few schools offer in-house scholarships, but there are external scholarships you can apply for, such as the Milady RISE Scholarship. Milady offers a $500 scholarship to 10 RISE-certified individuals (five enrolled students and five practicing professionals seeking further education).
You can also find other scholarship and grant programs that accept esthetician student applicants on the American Association of Cosmetology Schools website.
When you’re considering a job in the skincare industry, asking how much does it cost to become an esthetician can help you plan for your education, future and career. Whether you’re ready to learn more about the world of esthetics or simply receive some career advice, educational materials provided by Milady are a great place to start.
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